After the Sabres squandered a two-goal lead late in regulation, Chris Drury deflected in Teppo Numminen’s shot 1:36 into overtime and Buffalo rebounded from a rare loss with a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday night. Drury won a faceoff back to Numminen, who ripped a drive that Drury knocked past goalie Henrik Lundqvist. After Buffalo’s 2-1 overtime loss to Montreal at home on Friday, Drury prevented the team’s first losing streak of the season – recalling the words of coach Lindy Ruff.
“Lindy kind of set that motto last year: ‘Never lose two in a row,”‘ Drury said. “Our goal is never to do that, always bounce back after a loss. I’m glad we did that.”
Thomas Vanek posted a goal and an assist in fewer than 2 1/2 minutes of the second period, and Buffalo overcame two goals by Martin Straka to beat the Rangers for the third time. The Sabres won both Madison Square Garden visits this season in overtime.
Straka tied it with 4:53 left in the third period and nearly provided a late lift to the Rangers for the second straight night. He carried a pass from Michael Nylander into the left circle and ripped a shot over Ryan Miller’s right shoulder.
Straka, who has four goals and three assists in a four-game point streak, connected Saturday in Pittsburgh with only 2.2 seconds remaining in overtime.
“I thought we had the momentum, but when we scored the goal we stopped playing,” Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr said. “We are not a good team yet. When the good teams get the momentum, they go for it.”
Miller was sharp in making 25 saves for the Sabres, who improved to 11-1 on the road.
“It’s been established, it’s part of our focus,” Miller said. “So it doesn’t have to be brought up. We just understand it.”
Vanek set up Maxim Afinogenov’s goal at 11:59 of the second period and then scored at 14:11 for the Sabres (19-3-2), who lead the Eastern Conference with 40 points. Buffalo had its NHL-record 10-game road winning streak to start the season snapped at Ottawa on Nov. 18 before a 2-0-1 homestand.
The Rangers had a season-high three-game winning streak broken and fell to 5-4-2 at home – including two losses in three weeks to Buffalo.
“We showed a lot of character to come back against a team like this,” Straka said.
The Rangers got into trouble early in the second period by taking three consecutive penalties in a span of 41 seconds.
Lundqvist sparkled during an extended 5-on-3 disadvantage behind a team of tired penalty-killers. He stopped Daniel Briere with his right pad from in front after a smooth setup from Drury. Lundqvist then turned away that duo again about 90 seconds later, blocking Drury’s shot and a rebound try by Briere.
“It was probably one of our better 5-on-3s,” Drury said. “We had some unbelievable point-blank chances. Sometimes the goalie is going to make great saves and Lundqvist was certainly doing that.”
But New York’s good fortune ran out shortly after when Buffalo’s potent power play clicked twice within 2:12. Only Afinogenov’s 12th of the season was officially a man-advantage goal, but Vanek’s came just 2 seconds after Marek Malik served his hooking call.
Ryan Hollweg was in the box for punching Jason Pominville, following Hollweg’s hard, clean hit along the boards.
The Sabres turned Matt Cullen’s turnover into a rush the other way, and Afinogenov rifled a shot in off Lundqvist’s right arm to make it 1-0 at 11:59.
Hollweg was replaced in the box by Malik 10 seconds later.
Vanek needed little time to convert Sandis Ozolinsh’s defensive-zone turnover, flipping a shot past Lundqvist with 5:49 remaining in the period.
As the Sabres celebrated on the ice, Rangers coach Tom Renney leaned over on the bench to talk to Jagr.
Whatever the message was, it worked.
On his next shift, Jagr slid a long pass all the way across the goal line to Straka, who cut New York’s deficit to 2-1 just 20 seconds after Vanek’s goal.
Miller made his best save in protecting that lead with under two minutes left in the period when he stopped Adam Hall by placing his stick flat on the ice and blocking the puck just before it could cross the line.
Notes: The Sabres are 3-0 in the season series that concludes in Buffalo on Friday. … Buffalo is 15-0-1 when scoring a power-play goal. … Jagr had his three-game goal streak snapped. … The Rangers also failed on a 5-on-3 power play.